Effects of Birth Order on Relationships as Applied to Erick Erickson’s Stages of Development

Erick Erickson has been a pioneer in psychology for his contribution in the field and the most famous is his Psychosocial Stages of Development.  In the “theory of psychosocial development” article, Ericson believed in his theory that the achievements and failures of earlier stages influence later stages, whereas later stages modify and transform earlier ones and views that psychosocial growth occurs in phases. Erickson explains eight developmental stages in which physical, cognitive, instinctual and sexual changes combine to trigger an internal crisis whose resolution results in either psychosocial regression or growth and the development of specific virtues and this virtue is defined as the inherent strength. An article in buzzle.com entitled, “Effects of Birth Order on Relationships” can be well explained by Erick Erickson’s psychosocial stages of development. In the article, it says that even when two siblings with identical upbringing still exhibit diverse personality traits and this is because their social environment is often different. Exposure to social environment is said to be largely dictated by the child’s birth order in the family. Birth order also impacts the interpersonal relationships.

The oldest children tend to be bossy, power oriented and dominant but they are responsible and dependable as well. Middle children may show an occasional streak of rebelliousness, but are generally friendly and competitive. Whereas, youngest children are rebels, risk takers and highly competitive, however, they may have difficulty in accomplishing tasks independently. Only children are attention seekers and self-centered. On a positive side, they are mature and hardworking. When it comes to relationships, firstborns tend to be more responsible and authoritative. However, as they have been dethroned in their life, there exists a sense of insecurity regarding their partner’s loyalty. Middle children always have to cope up with the more powerful elder siblings as well as attention seeking younger sibling. Hence, they have a feeling of being unloved and uncared for, which culminates into a state of indecisiveness and insecurity, either of which can be detrimental for a relationship. Youngest children are used to all the attention and adulation from parents as well as elder siblings. They are often dependent on others to do their bidding. Naturally, they start expecting their partner to assume a role of a primary caregiver once in a relationship.

Each person’s individuality based on birth order mentioned in the article can be further explained using Erickson’s psychosocial stages of development. For the firstborn’s attitude of being bossy, power oriented, dominant, responsible and dependable, they might have developed “autonomy” during their toddler years. It is in these years where toddlers gain control over eliminative functions and motor abilities and they begin to explore their surroundings. They were able to satisfy themselves and developed a sense of being able to handle many problems on their own. On the middle children’s attitude on being friendly and competitive, they might have developed “trust” during their infancy years. The first stage of Erickson’s theory is the trust vs. mistrust. It is where the infant depends on the parents for basic needs. If the parents were able to provide the warmth, consistency of affection and interaction during this stage, the infant would likely develop trust and later in the child’s life will easily be able to trust other people, hence, gaining tons of friends. The youngest children on the other hand, being attention seeker might be related to industry vs. inferiority stage, wherein during their childhood years (6-12yrs old) they developed “inferiority.” Children during these years are becoming more aware of themselves and by not having been developed the sense of “industry” tends to have familial rivalry causing them to seek attention from parents and elder siblings.

Although, birth order impacts a relationship in more ways than one, it would be wrong to assume that a success of a relationship depends on birth order alone. In fact, love, trust and compassion between partners are far more significant factors in making a relationship worthwhile.

Works Cited:

Theory of psychosocial development. 13 August 2011. Nursing Theories. 18 November 2011


Sule, Ashwani. 18 November 2011. Effects of Birth Order on Relationships. 18 November 2011.

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